When a guy coming off season-ending back surgery is among the first to leave the ice two days in a row, it’s not going to go unnoticed — even if he is just leaving a game of shinny with friends.
Especially when the guy is a big (6-foot-4) and important (top-4 defenceman) player with the Senators.
“I had a meeting to go to (Monday),” Filip Kuba explained when reporters caught up to him following Tuesday’s skate at Sensplex. “(Tuesday) I was out for an hour and 15 (minutes), so it was enough. I’ve been skating since the beginning of August. It’s not like I’m beginning to skate right now. I’ve been on the ice for more than 30 days.”
And all is good with the back, the 33-year-old veteran reports.
Kuba, who had 40 points in his 2008-09 Ottawa debut campaign, was limited to 53 games last season, mostly because of back problems. He finally succumbed to surgery to repair a herniated disc April 6, squashing any chance of his participation in the playoffs.
“When I tried to play with it, it wasn’t fun, obviously,” said Kuba, who suited up for just two games (March 2 against the Rangers, March 18 in Atlanta) after the Olympic break. “It was frustrating to not be able to do the things I want to do on the ice. The surgery was the only option.
“The rehab went fine. I worked out all summer. Did all the things I did the previous summers, and didn’t have any problems, so it felt pretty good.
“It was a struggle for me at the end of last season with the injury. I’m happy I’m 100% and I’m looking forward to the coming season.”
Kuba, most assume, will start the season as the blue-line partner of Erik Karlsson, with Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar forming Ottawa’s other top pairing. Kuba, who has two more years on a contract that pays him a $3.7-million US salary, may have some covering up to do as the 20-year-old Karlsson continues to learn what he can and cannot get away with at this level.
He expects to be up for any challenge presented him.
“Physically, I think I’m where I was before,” said Kuba. “Now it’s just a matter of getting the playing confidence back.
“I skated for the last month, but there was no physical play or involvement, stuff like that. So that’s going to be something I have to try also.”